The Portland Sea Dogs will have a new look in this, their 28th season of minor league baseball in Maine.

For the first time, their coaching staff will include a woman.

Katie Krall has been hired by the parent Boston Red Sox as a development coach for Double-A Portland. She will be in uniform while serving as a conduit between players, on-field staff and the Red Sox front office.

“I love the idea of little boys and little girls going to Sea Dogs games this summer and seeing me in uniform,” Krall said, “and thinking to themselves, ‘Oh, wow. That’s a woman on the field. And she’s talking to the manager about what relief pitcher should come in and what batter should be used off the bench.’ I think there is a profound impact with that visual representation of diversity.”

Krall, who turns 25 next month, spoke by phone from Florida, where this week she is helping run a mini-camp the Red Sox are calling a “Winter Warmup” for 28 minor league players. Because of the owner-imposed lockout of major league players, no one on the Red Sox 40-man roster is allowed to take part in any spring training activities.

Although there is much uncertainty regarding Major League Baseball while owners and players hash out a new collective bargaining agreement, the minor leagues are relatively unaffected because those players are not covered by the CBA.

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“We’re still all systems go for April 8th,” said Geoff Iacuessa, the Sea Dogs president and general manager, referring to Opening Day at Hadlock Field.

Both season and individual-game tickets are on sale. Iacuessa said season-ticket sales are slightly above what they were at this time two years ago, before the pandemic wiped out the 2020 season and condensed and pushed back last season, which started under limited seating restrictions.

“We’re staying optimistic,” Iacuessa said. “There’s a lot of excitement for spring and summer and baseball and being outside.”

Krall is the second woman hired in a coaching capacity by the Red Sox, who recently promoted Bianca Smith, 29, to their staff in Fort Myers, Florida. Smith, who played softball at Dartmouth, is the first Black female coach in professional baseball history.

The rival New York Yankees, meanwhile, hired Rachel Balkovec this month as manager of their Class A Tampa Tarpons. Balkovec, 34, is one of 22 women who had either on-field coaching or player development roles in professional baseball at the start of the 2021 season, according to an annual report card issued by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. That list includes Alyssa Nakken, the first woman to work as a full-time coach in the majors, with the San Francisco Giants.

The list does not include Kim Ng, the league’s only female general manager, of the Miami Marlins. Nor does it include Krall, who had been an operations analyst for the Cincinnati Reds after serving a nearly two-year fellowship in the MLB commissioner’s office focused on economics and operations.

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BEING IN UNIFORM

“Being in uniform was a huge selling point,” said Krall, who had left the Reds to work for Google on global strategy for three months until the Red Sox convinced her to return to baseball. “Personally, I knew it would allow me to be part of conversations and in a clubhouse situation where I get to see first-hand how information is consumed and disseminated. I also think it’s really powerful that the Red Sox are giving me the platform to be part of a growing but still small group of women who are in uniform.”

Krall grew up in a Chicago suburb in a family that rooted for both the Cubs and White Sox. Her twin sister, Annie, is a television reporter in Green Bay who was accepted to medical school but opted to earn a master’s degree in journalism at their alma mater, Northwestern. Katie earned her undergraduate degree in only three years in Evanston, and had planned on getting an MBA her fourth year but instead became part of the inaugural diversity fellowship program at Major League Baseball.

She also served as assistant general manager for Hyannis of the Cape Cod League in 2017, when she was only 19. She plans to complete the requirements for her MBA – remotely, of course – at the University of Chicago this spring.

Early in junior high, Krall read “Moneyball” and it changed the way she thought about baseball. Maybe bunting isn’t always a good idea. Maybe earned run average isn’t a great measure of a pitcher’s performance.

“That book really opened my eyes,” she said. “Also, as a little girl, it gave me an indication that if I structured my career path in a certain manner, I might be able to contribute in this industry even if I wasn’t in the starting lineup.”

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Brian Abraham, the director of player development for the Red Sox, described Krall’s new role as a hybrid position that the team also will employ at its other full-season minor league affiliates in Worcester, Massachusetts; Greenville, South Carolina; and Salem, Virginia.

“It’s an on-field coaching role, he said, “that involves conversations with the front office and our (roving instructors) that helps better integrate information to not only players but coaches as well.”

‘WISE BEYOND HER YEARS’

Such conversations can involve short-term or long-term adjustments. Krall will interpret portions of the team’s voluminous database of diagnostic and analytical information in ways that can best educate players and coaches. Through the interview process, Abraham came away impressed with Krall’s communication skills, baseball smarts and understated manner.

“She’s wise beyond her years,” Abraham said. “With her intelligence, her confidence and her understanding of the game, she’s going to be able to handle any situation thrown her way.”

The Red Sox have yet to announce the managers and full coaching staffs for their minor league teams. Abraham said they plan to do so by the end of the month. Sea Dogs fans should expect a new manager because Corey Wimberly has been promoted to baserunning and outfield coordinator, a roving position.

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On Wednesday in Fort Myers, a golf outing is planned for coaches and front-office staff. Don’t worry about Krall feeling out of place. She had offers to golf at Princeton and Georgetown, among other Division I schools, before enrolling at Northwestern. She plays to a six handicap.

In the not too distant future, Ng of the Marlins may not be the only female general manager in Major League Baseball.

“I would love the opportunity to someday be the architect of a team and to build a sustainable pipeline of talent,” Krall said. “The opportunity to really be a leader in that capacity is something that I’m very interested in.”

By the same token, she said, “I’m excited to see what this season holds. Who knows? Maybe they’ll never be able to pull me back to a desk job again. I’ll never want to leave the field.”


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